Aug 25, 2008 - film/tv reviews    Comments Off

Jodhaa Akbar Film Review

I saw this film twice, once at home and once in the movie theater and loved it. I don’t know much about the “real history” although it seems quite disputed. However, my father is from India and quite scholarly about that stuff so I asked him quite a bit about it. We also visited a number of the famous Mughal sites in India such as Fatepur Sikri etc and learned about it when we were younger. So, sure a lot of stuff was made up, and liberal license was definitely taken into making the movie. (Like those whole made up conditions? Sorry women didn’t have a say in anything back then! and ignoring the whole fact that she had converted to Islam and never had a temple in her quarters!) It’s a true Bollywood style movie with romance, intrigue, betrayal, praying to hindu gods, huge songs, even elephants! etc.

They do show some subtle anti-Islamic things like he’s only cured once she worships her god and how the only hijab wearing ‘religious’ wet nurse is evil, along with the self-righteous ulema. But I don’t think they were obviously ‘anti-islam’. It was more like they were trying to push secularism across.

In the end, I think the movie showed what the director wanted to show and got the message he wanted to get across. He wanted to show that the Moghuls weren’t evil conquerors. He wanted to show that Akbar was a truly great man, a humanist who had the vision and guts to unite India, and truly do what his forefathers weren’t able to do — position himself as an ‘Indian’ ruler and not a foreigner and subsequently conquer all of India. Many people say this deen-e-ilahi was just a half way thing that the hindus could be brought to accept until they could be eventually ready for Islam. It was just a different name for islam/tawheed after all it means ‘religion of God’. If he had been harsh and pushed islam down peoples throats, he would never have ‘won’ the people, let alone have legitimacy of reign. If you are a smart ruler you make alliances, you arrange marriages with the enemies and conquered, you do all these things to bring peace to your empire. You respect the traditions, you incorporate the culture and traditions of the land while keeping ur religion, you make it your own. This is the way Islam spread across the world so quickly and peacefully.

[I think there's truly a lesson for us to learn here. As Islam spread, it spread as principles and practice, it incorporated the local culture. It didn't change who people were. It created a new culture that adhered to Islamic principles and kept their own traditions. Their societies were intact culturally. People were given freedom in what they wanted to believe. Today, we have like this black and white mentality. It's like something is either completely wrong if it isn't one certain way. Wearing ethnic dress: Haram. Wearing a black jilbab: Halal must do, only way to do. Being harsh to enemies and beheading them: Halal. It's like?? The world is not so black and white. We've truly somehow lost the Islam in there being like this you know what I mean?]

The director also showed the awesome scale of the Moghul power and pageantry, their love for arts, architecture, poetry. The main moral seems to be in the last words of the film: that only through respecting each other’s traditions and religions will India ever have true peace and happiness. And that is definitely a very Islamic principle. Muslims ruled India for 800 years as a minority and you see that they were always allowed to keep their traditions and religions.

I loved the clothes and jewelery and to see Fatepur Sikri like that was like a vision come true. Truly beautifully filmed. Even the battle scenes, while gory were well choreographed and shot. The songs were poetry. And I also liked that they showed Akbar as a principled man, and spiritual with his Sufism stuff. And I also liked the whole playing out of an arranged marriage to good end, I thought the whole love story was done very well.

I hope Indians watch this in droves because there is no doubt it shows Muslims in a good light even if it doesn’t seem like it to us. Extreme hindu groups in India are calling for banning it and bombing theaters because they think it shows Mughals in too good a light. Muslims say there’s not enough strict “Islam” in it and of course that the whole love story/keeping her hinduism is fiction not to mention there are a number of loveydovey scenes in it during the love story and are protesting it. And then in Rajasthan it’s banned because they don’t like how it portrays their Rajput history. For a film that’s trying to get across the message of religious harmony, it’s sadly ironic.

PS.  I wouldn’t really recommend this film for Muslims to watch because it’s a straight out bollywood movie, but I would recommend for all of us to learn more about the history of this time period and think about the lessons for us maybe.

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